The Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, in Abuja, was on Monday prayed to dismiss the petition filed by the Labour Party, LP, and its presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi, against the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as president-elect in the February 25 presidential election.
The APC, which is the fourth respondent in the petition, in its notice of preliminary objection marked: CA/PEPC/03/2023 and filed at PEPC’s Secretariat, Monday night, by Thomas Ojo, a member of the party’s legal team led by Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, urged the PEPC to reject the petition.
The APC asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost on the grounds that it lacked merit and was frivolous.
The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, reports that Obi, the first petitioner, and the LP, the second petitioner, had dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Tinubu, Senator Kashim Shettima and the APC as first to fourth respondents respectively.
The petitioners are seeking, among other reliefs, the nullification of the election victory of Tinubu and Shettima in the February 25 presidential poll.
NAN reports that former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, came second in the election with 6,984,520 votes; while Obi came third with 6,101,533 votes.
Abubakar and the PDP are also challenging the outcome of the poll.
But in the LP petition, marked: CA/PEPC/03/2023 filed by Obi and LP’s lead counsel, Livy Ozoukwu, they contended that Tinubu “was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the time of the election.”
The petitioners alleged that there was rigging in 11 states, adding that they would demonstrate this in the declaration of results based on the uploaded results.
Obi and the LP said that INEC violated its own regulations when it announced the result, despite the fact that at the time of the announcement, the totality of the polling unit results had yet to be fully scanned, uploaded and transmitted electronically, as required by the Electoral Act.
The petitioners also urged the tribunal to “determine that, at the time of the presidential election, held on February 25, 2023, the second and third respondents, Tinubu and Shettima, were not qualified to contest the election.
The petition stated, “That it be determined that all the votes recorded for the second respondent in the election are wasted votes, owing to the non-qualification of the second and third respondents.
“That it be determined that on the basis of the remaining votes, after discountenancing the votes credited to the second respondent, the first petitioner, Obi, scored a majority of the lawful votes cast at the election and had not less than 25 per cent of the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of the states of the federation and the FCT and satisfied the constitutional requirements to be declared the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
“That it be determined that the second respondent, Tinubu, having failed to score one-quarter of the votes cast at the presidential election in the FCT was not entitled to be declared and returned as the winner of the presidential election held on Feb. 25.”
But in it’s response, the APC prayed the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that Obi, the first petitioner, lacked the requisite locus standi to institute the petition, because he was not a member of the LP at least 30 days to the party’s presidential primary, to be validly sponsored by the party.
The APC said, “The first petitioner, Obi, was a member of PDP until May 24, 2022.
“The first petitioner was screened as a presidential aspirant of the PDP in April 2022.
“The first petitioner participated and was cleared to contest the presidential election while being a member of the PDP.
“The first petitioner purportedly resigned his membership of the PDP on May 24, 2022, to purportedly join the second petitioner, LP on May 27, 2022.
“The second petitioner conducted its presidential primary on May 30, 2022, which purportedly produced the first petitioner as its candidate, which time contravened Section 77(3) of the Electoral Act for him to contest the primary election as a member of the second petitioner.”
The APC further argued that Obi was not a member of the LP as at the time of his alleged sponsorship.
The party argued that “by the mandatory provisions of Section 77(1), (2), and (3) of the Electoral Act 2022, a political party shall maintain a register, and shall make such register available to INEC not later than 30 days before the date fixed for the party primaries, congresses and convention.”
The APC stated further that all the PDP’s presidential candidates were screened on April 29, 2022, an exercise which Obi participated in and was cleared to contest, while being a member of the party.
It argued that the petition was incompetent since Obi’s name could not have been in LP’s register made available to INEC as at the time he joined the party.
The APC equally argued that the petition was improperly constituted, having failed to join Atiku Abubakar and the PDP, who were necessary parties to be affected by the reliefs sought.
It said, “By Paragraph 17 of the petition, the petitioners, on their own, stated that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar came second in the presidential election with 6,984,520 votes, as against the petitioners, who came third with 6,101,533 votes.
“At Paragraph 102(iti) of the petition, the petitioners urged the tribunal to determine that the first petitioner scored the majority of lawful votes, without joining Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the petition.
“For the tribunal to grant prayer (iii) of the petitioners, the tribunal must have set aside the scores and election of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
“Alhaji Atiku Abubakar must be heard before his votes can be discountenanced by the tribunal.”
The party said that the petition and the identified paragraphs were in breach of the mandatory provisions of Paragraph 4(1)(D) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022.
According to the APC, Paragraphs 60 – 77 of the petition are non-specific, vague and/or nebulous, and thereby incompetent, contrary Paragraph 4(1)(d) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022.
It said further that the allegations of non-compliance must be made distinctly and proved on polling unit basis, but none was specified or provided in any of the paragraphs of the petition.
It added, “Paragraphs 59-60 of the petition disclose no identity or particulars of scores and polling units supplied in 18,088 units mentioned therein.”
The party, therefore, argued that the tribunal lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain pre-election complaints embedded in the petition, as presently constituted, among other arguments.
The APC subsequently urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost, as same was devoid of any merit and founded on frivolity.